SAG-AFTRA and Replica Studios Kick off AI Agreements in Video Games

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AI became a hot topic in 2023 with no sign of slowing down in the new year. AI ads, images, models, and writing is rapidly becoming more common in media and increasingly common in video games. While the development of video games might be one of the last things to be convincingly replaced by AI, voice acting AI is already creeping it’s way into the genre, but some companies look to be taking the right channels. An AI voiceover company called Replica Studios has just signed a deal with SAG-AFTRA on the 9th of January and announced the deal at CES in Vegas. This comes just a few months after the writers strike that concerned the use of an actor’s voice and likeness in film and media among many other concerns. Some reports have stated that the initial inability to agree about AI was one of the reasons the strikes went on for as long as they did. In the end, they did come to an agreeable conclusion that involved consent and compensation requirements.

“Artificial intelligence has dominated the headlines, and for most performers, the best protection against the unauthorized digital simulation of their voice, likeness and/or performance is a SAG-AFTRA contract. We are so happy to partner with Replica Studios, because this is a great example of AI being done right,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher.

The deal covers some of the nuances of creating AI that is based off of an actors voice of visual likeness. Essentially, the deal sets up studios to only use data that an actor has concerned for the studio to collect for a predetermined set of time that the actor is aware of. With these limits, a studio could not go back and create additional content using AI beyond what the studio has paid and gathered consent for. It also helped set standards for how safely the data for AI is stored.  This sets the stage for consent to be much more prevalent in the AI process than it is now. 

“ Approved by affected members of the union’s voiceover performer community, this contract marks an important step towards the ethical use of AI voices in creative projects by game developers, and sets the basis for fair and equitable employment of voice actors as they explore the new revenue opportunities provided by AI.” said the union’s Executive Director.

Crabtree-Ireland said in a press conference that this agreement will opens up employment opportunities for voiceover performers who want to license their voices for use in video games. The deal only applies to “digital replicas” which involves using AI to re-create the voice of a real performer, living or dead. It does not apply to AI training to create synthetic performances.

Replica Studios launched its AI platform in 2019. They sell AI voices to video game developers from its library of “ethically licensed” voices. With the addition of this signed deal, it looks like we are one step closer to that description being true. Last year, the company announced a new iteration of “Smart NPCs” that could use OpenAI or other language models to interact with video game players.

It's great to see a step toward fair and safe use of actor's talents and agreements concerning compensation as it pertains to  AI. With more and more morally grey AI usage finding it's way into this digital age, it's good to see companies that are concerned about producing their work fairly. This agreement shows us that embracing change and improving the quality and efficiency of our work doesn't have to come at the cost of our integrity.


Replies • 5

 It does not apply to AI training to create synthetic performances

That's the right way to do things. Cloning someone's voice without their consent is definitely wrong but if it's based on your own or nobody at all I fully support it.


I hope this is secures and improves working conditions for voice actors in the industry.

Solidarity with SAG-AFTRA

Doesn't give actors their jobs back but at least their voices can't be used without their consent and without compensation for language model algorithms to "create" content.